Metro Basketball Report & Ranking

December 7th, 2006
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In the aftermath of last week’s rankings, not much movement took place at the top or bottom of the poll. Marist and Hofstra continued to win, and Iona and St. Francis remain winless. As for the spots in between, Army, Fordham and Seton Hall are all enjoying winning streaks of at least three games. Columbia, after being blown out at Providence, bounced back to beat Sacred Heart and Wagner, the latter by twenty-six last night. Stony Brook hit the tough part of their early schedule, losing to Villanova and Hofstra at home, but did anyone expect them to lose to then-winless Maryland-Eastern Shore?


Besides the Red Foxes, no team in the area seems to have found positive consistent play to this point in the season, although the Pride look to be headed in that direction. Iona and St. Francis have been consistent as well, but not in the way that they would like. Before giving the new poll, here are five games over the next week in the New York metropolitan area that you all should pay some attention to in chronological order.


·         Fordham @ No. 22 Maryland (Wednesday, 8:00 pm EST)

The Rams head to College Park to take on the Terrapins, and depth could be the deciding factor in this contest. While Fordham had a capable starting five, three of which average double figures in points per game (Marcus Stout, Bryant Dunston, and Sebastian Greene), their reserves haven’t played well in losses to Tennessee and Belmont. Brenton Butler averages 12.8 ppg off the bench, but that’s been about it for the Rams in that regard. That could be their undoing against a Maryland team that has already been tested with games against Vermont, Michigan State and Illinois. The individual to watch will be Dunston and how he deals with the likes of James Gist and Ekene Ibekwe among others.


·         Long Island @ Monmouth (Thursday, 7:00 pm EST)

The Blackbirds, picked to finish third in the NEC this season, have struggled at times this season. Yet that won’t matter one bit in their conference opener, on the road against the defending tournament champion Monmouth Hawks. Monmouth, currently 3-6, has played a tough schedule to this point in the season, having faced the likes of Old Dominion, Clemson, Pennsylvania and Seton Hall. Also, eight of the Hawks first nine games have been on the road. Robert Morris is the preseason favorite, but the winner of this could make a run in the NEC race.


·         Manhattan @ Fairfield (Friday, 7:30 pm EST)

As with the Northeast Conference, the MAAC schedule opens up this weekend, and this matchup between two struggling teams should be interesting. Manhattan has lost four straight, thanks in part to their season average of 18.7 turnovers per game. Fairfield has played an extremely tough schedule and will head home for the conference opener after playing at Boston College Wednesday night. The Stags, thanks to their schedule, have had issues on the offensive end in terms of scoring (57.8 points per game) and turnovers (16.7 turnovers per game). Also, Fairfield freshman and leading scorer Greg Nero gets his first taste of MAAC basketball. Look for the winning team to be the one that can hold onto the basketball.


·         Penn State @ Seton Hall (Saturday, 1:00 pm EST)

The Nittany Lions, who have beaten Bucknell and St. Joseph’s at home this year, visit the Pirates in what should be an entertaining game Saturday afternoon. Penn State relies on the triumvirate of Jamelle Cornley, Danny Morrissey and Geary Claxton for the majority of their points with Morrissey being the lone guard of the trio.


On the other hand, Seton Hall relies on their perimeter game, more specifically the likes of Brian Laing, Jamar Nutter, Eugene Harvey and Paul Gause to make things go. Can Seton Hall make Penn State play faster than they would like, or will Ed DeChellis’ bunch control tempo?


·         Marist @ St. Peter’s (Sunday, 2:00 pm EST)

Marist, preseason favorites in the MAAC, visits the Peacocks in their second conference game of the year. Everyone knew about the backcourt of Jared Jordan and Will Whittington, but center James Smith had improved a great deal since last season. As with any big man, foul trouble can be an issue at times, but it hasn’t been one for Smith since he fouled out of the season opener at Ohio.


As for St. Peter’s, year one A.K. (After Keydren) has proven to be a difficult transition, as it was expected to be. Guards Raul Orta and Kevin Spann have stepped up, as has forward Todd Sowell, but help for these three has been lacking at times. How these two teams play in their league openers Friday night (Marist vs. Canisius, St. Peter’s at Loyola (MD)) will have a lot to do with just how important this game is, but you should pay attention to it regardless.


Here are the updated rankings.


1.      Marist (last week: 1): Marist won tough games against Old Dominion and at Richmond last week.

2.      Hofstra (2): The Pride have won their last five and should be 6-3 when they visit Syracuse on the 22nd.

3.      Army (3): The Black Knights should be 9-2 before they visit Notre Dame and Michigan in late December.

4.      Fordham (4): With their next three games being at Maryland, at Penn, and at Texas A&M, it’s a good thing the Rams took care of winless Iona.

5.      St. John’s (5): The Red Storm did what they were supposed to in beating Maryland-Baltimore County and St. Francis (NY); Niagara on the road is next.

6.      Columbia (7): The Lions recovered from their loss at Providence with wins over Sacred Heart and Wagner.

7.      Seton Hall (9): The Pirates have won four in a row since their loss to Fairleigh Dickinson, and they held Monmouth to 49 in their blowout win Monday night.

8.      Stony Brook (6): Losing to Maryland-Eastern Shore shows that there is still work to be done despite the obvious signs of improvement.

9.      Fairleigh Dickinson (8): Sandwiched between losses to Wisconsin-Green Bay and Drexel is a two-point victory over Canisius. The NEC opener at Quinnipiac is next for the Knights.

10.  Sacred Heart (11): The Pioneers ended a two-game skid with a 90-80 win over Yale Monday night.

11.  Long Island (13): Unlike the next two teams in the poll, the Blackbirds won their last game (70-62 over New Hampshire).

12.  Manhattan (10): The Jaspers have lost their last four going into their MAAC opener at Fairfield

13.  Wagner (12): You don’t follow up a good win over Yale with a 70-44 loss to Columbia.

14.  St. Peter’s (14): The Peacocks have lost four straight and are winless on the road (0-2) this season heading into their MAAC opener at Loyola (MD)

15.  Fairfield (15): The Stags have played an extremely tough schedule so far, but they start off 0-0 in MAAC play just like everyone else.

16.  Iona (16): Four of Iona’s first five games have been away from home, and the next three (Rider, Vermont, Rutgers) will also be on the road. This has the makings of a tough year in New Rochelle.

17.  St. Francis (NY) (17): In their two home games this season, the Terriers have lost by an average of 24.5 points per game. St. Francis (PA) visits Thursday night.